Manx politicians have backed plans to allow doctors to prescribe or administer lethal drugs at the request of patients.
On Tuesday, members of Tynwald’s lower Branch – the House of Keys – passed MHK Alex Allinson’s Assisted Dying Bill at second reading by 17 votes to seven.
The Bill would enable residents over the age of 18 who have mental capacity and are not expected to live beyond six months to “be lawfully provided with assistance to end their life”.
Speaking against the proposals, Chief Minister Alfred Cannan told members there “is no evidence of a mandate” and argued: “The path we should take is one that leads us to compassionate palliative care”.
Andrew Smith MHK, also opposed to any change in the law, referred to the case of a young woman, misdiagnosed with terminal cancer in 2014. Subsequent investigations revealed the supposed cancer was only scar tissue.
In a letter to the MHK she wrote: “Should I have been offered an assisted suicide, my life could have ended at the age of 21. However, I am now 29 and have every expectation of living a full life.”
And Kate Lord-Brennan criticised the lack of detail in the Bill on such a controversial matter, stating: “I’ve seen longer legislation for animals and for vehicles”.
‘Killing is cheap’
Dr Gordon Macdonald, CEO of the Care Not Killing alliance, urged politicians on the Isle of Man to “pull back from this dangerous and ideological policy”.
“As we see in a small number of places that have removed long term universal protections, by allowing the deliberate ending of human life with death row drugs, many vulnerable people will feel pressured into ending their lives.”
He concluded: “While killing is cheap, providing high quality palliative care and supporting people at the end is not, but this is what we would urge the members of the House of Keys focus on”.
Members are expected to vote next week to progress Allinson’s Bill to more detailed consideration. His plans to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide could be realised as early as 2025.
A recent Isle of Man Medical Society (IOMMS) survey of doctors found nearly three quarters (74 per cent) of respondents said they would refuse to help terminally ill people kill themselves.
According to the IOMMS, doctors have “overwhelmingly rejected” the plans, with the majority (62 per cent) seeing no need for a change in the law.
“More worryingly”, the Society reported, more than a third (34 per cent) “indicate they might consider leaving the IOM if this legislation was passed”.
Results of a public consultation on the Bill, released in April, found slightly more responses opposed the removal of end-of-life protections (49.61 per cent) than supported it (49.01 per cent).